Current & Coming  |  By Cynthia Drayton

The PRB at the MMA

July 1, 2014  |  Five Metropolitan Museum of Art curatorial departments comprising European paintings, drawings and prints, photographs, European decorative arts, and the Watson Library along with several private lenders have collaborated to produce a small,well-focused exhibition, The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) was founded in 1848 by seven young artists and writers who rejected contemporary academic painting, and instead looked for inspiration in late medieval and early Renaissance art before Raphael; hence the name. By 1853 the group had disbanded. A brief time later artists William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, both former Oxford theology students, asked former PRB member Dante Gabrielle Rossetti to lead a revival of the movement and to create art that also embraced romanticism, medievalism, and literature.

The Love Song by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898),  1868-77. Oil on canvas, 45 by 61 3/8 inches. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It is this tight knit trio of second generation Pre-Raphaelites whose thirty works of art are featured in this exhibition. A primary reason and keystone of the show is Burne-Jones's oil painting, The Love Song, which is displayed along with his painted cabinet The Backgammon Players, his stained-glass window, King David the Poet, and the 1898 tapestry, Angeli Landantes. Ceramics, textiles, wallpaper, and books by Morris show his versatility as both a designer and a manufacturer. Rossetti's portray of beautiful women defined his art and is here represented by his Lady Lilith, a watercolor depicting his mistress as a temptress with golden red hair.

Cabinet (The Backgammon Players) by Philip Webb (1831-1915); painted by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., 1861. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This exhibition lets viewers see how this second generation of Pre-Raphaelites inspired each other and, how they influenced late nineteenth-century art from the design reforms of the Arts and Craft movement and Art Nouveau to the hallucinatory compositions of Surrealism and the dreamy imagery of fin-de siècle Symbolism. 

The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design  *  The Metropolitan Museum of Art  *  On view through October 26


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